This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution
when Ayatollah Khomeini
overthrew the U.S.-supported Shah.
And this weekend on Feb. 28, State Department veteran Henry Precht
(pictured above) and National Iranian American Council founder Dr. Trita Parsi
will headline a Portland State University symposium
to discuss those events from 1979, and why Portlanders should care in 2009.
Precht was chief of the Iran desk at the State Department in 1979. He says now that, “Of all the countries in the world, in recent years, Iran has the potential of another armed clash. Fighting with Iran would be a terrible mistake. There's a lot riding on how America relates to Iran. And citizens need to be aware of the issues so they can form an educated option.”
Precht, now 76, says in order for Iran and the US to coexist peacefully in the Middle East while the US is in Iraq and Afghanistan, “both sides will need to cool the rhetoric.”
“We need to stop demonizing Iran," Precht says. "Once we lower the temperature, they will too.”
“We're in a moment now, with a new president that's popular in Iran and elsewhere," Precht says. "Although there is a lot on the president's plate, and I'm not sure how much he can devote to Iran, I'm hopeful that high-level talks will take place [between the two countries].”
This may prove easier in the next few months because Iran just finished its first round of 2009 elections in which reformists won 170 out of 290 possible parliamentary seats.
The parliamentary elections appear to be a rebuke of staunch conservative leadership. And Precht is optimistic the US's dealings with Iran may become less intense after the presidential election takes place this summer.
Precht says Americans and Iranians aren't as different as some may think.
“Iranians were happy we removed Saddam [Hussein]," he says. "And the biggest problem in Iran is the economy. Finding jobs is just as tough in the US as it is in Iran.”
As for Precht, he hasn't been back in Iran since Iescaping three days before the embassy siege in 1979.
“I'm anxious to go back…I'm just not sure I'd be able to get out.” Precht said with a chuckle.
What you need to know about the symposium this weekend:
Time and Location:
Saturday, February 28, 4:30 pm
Smith Memorial Student Union, Portland State University, Room #327
1825 SW Broadway, Portland.
Admission is $5, Free for students